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A Man Reading an Acceptable Use Policy for Business

An Acceptable Use Policy, or an AUP, is a type of regulation that employees must follow within their company’s internet use. Acceptable use policies specify practices and responsibilities that the user of the network must follow and agree to when using the web. If a worker violates these policies, they can face revocation of access to certain data or the internet.

Acceptable Use Policy Example Rules

Every business and educational facility user must adhere to the code of conduct laid out in their respective company’s acceptable use policy. Strict cybersecurity documentation and guidelines exist to protect businesses against data breaches and malware threats. Some common examples of rules included when writing an acceptable use policy are listed below:

  • Company internet guidelines specify business use only 
  • E-mail spamming breaches the code of conduct
  • Mail bombing to block the server violates the regulations
  • Network use for illegal file downloading infringes on acceptable use policy
  • Users must report any suspicious activity, such as compromised credentials or unauthorized access to company data.

Why are Acceptable Use Policies Important?

Simply put, if your business uses internet access, you will need an acceptable use policy to increase your company’s network protection.

Acceptable use policies are essential guidelines for your business that protect against data breaches and lawsuits. These policies shield your business from legal action—caused by, for instance, an employee’s negligent internet actions.

Employees’ internet activity, such as visiting illegal sites, can introduce malware and expose the company’s network. Moreover, accidental copying of data into a storage cloud can lead to leaked private organization data. As a result, these infringements can make the company prone to lawsuits. Businesses affected by this negligence can pursue legal action for the violation of acceptable use policy regulations. The threat of legal action on its own could also further discourage employees from violating acceptable use policy regulations.

Other user actions that could violate specified guidelines include acts such as illicit video streaming from a legal site. Although seemingly harmless because it is a legitimate site, it nevertheless violates the code of conduct. If this were allowed to go unpunished, it would set a bad precedent, causing others to believe that they can recklessly use the company’s networks for anything without punishment.

What is the Purpose of an Acceptable Use Policy?

Acceptable use policies are a fundamental part of information security and a document that can render proof of “due diligence.” These regulations provide safety for the network and protect sensitive customer data in the event of regulatory breach audits. The regulations can also protect a company’s brand from reputation damage caused by a data breach. 

The actions of consumers, vendors, contractors, and employees could pose a risk to your organization. The main purpose of AUP regulations is to safeguard your business from potential damage by anyone with access to your systems.

Acceptable use policies cover both intentional and unintentional actions on the part of users. Most importantly, it is critical for users to know that the policies monitor their activity, so they can be held responsible for their actions. As previously mentioned, this awareness alone may deter its users from proceeding with illegal internet activities and encourage them to respect the AUP’s code of conduct. In addition, the intended clientele must understand the instructions for the guidelines. This helps to ensure that they know what they can and cannot do with an organization’s network so that they do not mistakenly cause problems.

Because the policies apply to everyone in the organization—with no exceptions—this applies to upper management position leaders as well. Any member of a company—regardless of position or responsibilities—could potentially cause severe problems for the company if they are careless when using the internet.

In addition, users with legal access can help to report suspicious activities beforehand. Doing so can help to prevent problems such as data breaches before they happen and end them before they become worse for the organization.

What are Acceptable Use Policies for Workplace Technology?

Businesses benefit from having acceptable technology use policies in addition to a standard acceptable use policy. These policies can protect a company or institution from expected future problems. The term acceptable use policies for workplace technology refers to an AUP that covers and regulates the use of technology beyond a company’s computers and network. Acceptable technology use policies are most often used by educational institutions such as schools.

An AUP can protect your organization from threats that could come from, for example, a terminated employee attempting to retaliate.

When putting these regulations in place, there has to be a balance. Extreme limitations prohibiting access to the internet for a mental break, such as checking personal email, can affect companies’ employee retention and morale. Therefore, businesses should make some allowances for workers to more freely use the internet. This could be integrated into a company’s acceptable use policy by including a list of what sorts of internet functions, actions, and websites employees are allowed to use the company’s computers and technology for.

What is Strictly Prohibited as per the Acceptable Use Policy?

AUP access is strictly for lawful purposes. The user is liable for any data received, sent, and stored. Most importantly, the material is subject to regulations.

Strict prohibitions that are illegal if violated include, for example:

  • Transmission of protected trademark and copyright data
  • Patenting property rights without permission
  • Transmission of confidential material posing a threat
  • Unauthorized access to systems to monitor network data
  • Posting material for libel, defamation, and threats 
  • Breach of any security or measures used by the system

Acceptable use policy prohibitions highlight not attempting to infringe on the security of any system and network. Posting commercial messages and e-mail spamming is an explicit violation of the policies.

What to Know to Write Acceptable Use Policies

With the importance and usefulness of acceptable use policies established, there are some important guidelines, elements, and hints you should take into consideration when writing an AUP yourself.

5 Guidelines to Follow When Writing Acceptable Use Policies

  1. Create real-life scenarios regarding the kinds of technology the acceptable use policy covers
  1. Clarify with employees the reason for the AUP and why it is important to comply with it
  1. Explain the consequences of a violation of the AUP’s code of conduct
  1. Use general and clear vocabulary that is easy for anyone to understand when writing these guidelines 
  1. Update your acceptable use policies regularly to ensure no compliance with use of the latest technology

Some organizations may reference acceptable technology use policies for the workplace. However, other businesses might not do so. Instead, they might rely on other documentation and regulations to ensure that their technology is used the way they intend it to be.


Writing An Acceptable Use Policy for Business with Paper and Pen

What are the 6 Key Elements of an AUP?

Often, the administrator of a network implements acceptable use policy regulations. It is the user’s responsibility to follow the guidelines as the administrator sets them. For the most part, the specific elements and regulations can vary between different AUPs. However, there are some elements that most, if not all, acceptable use policies should include.

The National Education Association suggests 6 key elements to the AUP code of conduct.

The Six Acceptable Use Policy Key Elements Are…

  • The Preamble is a key element that describes AUP goals covered and not covered in the computer systems. For example, in an educational institution, it describes the conditions under which students can use the network, and the regulations they must follow while doing so. The preamble designates the proper use of computer services by its users.
  • The Definition Section clarifies the policies in simple words. This confirms that the users of the network can understand the language and terminology used by the Acceptable Use Policies.
  • The Policy Statement explains the computer services protected by the Acceptable Use Policy. This key element summarizes the guidelines under which users have access to the network. For instance, in educational institutions, students will have access to the network according to the task they are to perform on the computer. In many cases, it will be for a class project or homework.  
  • An Acceptable Uses Section defines the code of conduct to be followed when using the computer network according to the AUP. An example of this is found in learning centers. In this example, the acceptable uses section will limit students to accessing the computer network for educational purposes only. Similarly to employees, they will have limited access to the workstation network for work-related tasks.
  • An Unacceptable Uses Section specifies what is acceptable and unacceptable under the Acceptable Use Policy. The unacceptable uses section element defines the code of conduct. In addition, it helps monitor what users send and receive through the network.

Summing Up Acceptable Use Policies

An Acceptable Use Policy is essential for all educational institutions and businesses. Users in these facilities can expose the network to cyber threats when they are on the internet, potentially without even intending to. Therefore, an acceptable use policy provides a degree of safety and deterrence against cyber breaches by making sure users know what they can and cannot use the network for. However, users must agree to and sign the agreements. This is similar to when you sign onto the internet in your home, where you must agree to a set of guidelines.

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